What is a villain? The classic definition describes him as an evil person, or just somebody who is opposing the hero. You can spot him from the beginning of the movie. And, usually you hope that by the end of the movie he will suffer a tragic death. But has it ever happened to you to actually like the villain more than the hero? Or, at least be intrigued by his actions, although they are wicked and cruel?
This happened to me more than once in the past 2 decades. There were actually a couple of times when I found the villain to be so brilliant that it almost got me in a moral dilemma. But enough talking, let’s meet them: the 5 brilliant movie villains of the past 2 decades.
(Attention: Spoiler alert!) Who would believe that a shy, emotional cripple could be a vicious murderer? Certainly not the Police. And especially when the story of these murders sounds more real than the truth. With an extremely rich imagination and a natural-born talent of knowing just what the others want to hear, Kevin Spacey’s character is absolutely brilliant. Playing a cripple, who somehow seems to have ended up in the wrong place, at the wrong time, Kevin Spacey creates a character that can fool anybody with his droopy eyes and helplessness. “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone”, turning Kevin Spacey’s Verbal Kint into one of the most brilliant movie villains of all times.
Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden is that type of high-school villain who used to corrupt you to do all sorts of stupid, dangerous stuff. He’s that guy that your parents forbid you to hang out with. He always got in trouble, and whoever was with him was guaranteed to have the same fate. But all this bad boy image, his lack of fear and his constant attempt of breaking the rules is what makes him look attractive. Tyler Durden is that wicked voice in your head that can turn you from an ordinary, obedient office worker into the guy who gets into fights every night just for the fun of it. And Brad Pitt does a hell of a job in bringing Tyler Durden to life and creating that type of character that we hate to love.
Probably the name Tobin Bell doesn’t tell you much, because his wicked character is rarely spotted in the numerous parts of SAW. But the movie is all about him. Or, better said, it’s all about his brilliant, and yet terrifying inventions used to torture all those people who get the fright of their life when they wake up in one of Jigsaw’s dark rooms. I must admit that I’m rather horrified by Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw than impressed. But his strong belief that torturing people will only make them find a deeper appreciation for their lives once they are free, and the complexity of his plan puts Jigsaw in the same category with Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of the killer in Seven. We definitely hate them, but at the same time we can’t help ourselves to also be at least a little intrigued by how their minds work.
In a time where everything smelled like raw fish and rotten eggs, who wouldn’t want to find the most beautifully smelling scent to cover all the stench. But how far would you go in your attempt to make the world smell better? For Ben Whishaw’s Jean Baptiste-Grenouille there’s no price too high to pay and no murder too cruel when it comes to finding the perfect scent. Obsessed by smells and having an out of the ordinary nose for fragrances, Ben Whishaw portrays a rather strange, misfit character who becomes obsessed with preserving scents once he founds one that he can not keep for too long. Although a vicious killer, Jean Baptiste Grenouille’s brilliance is unquestionable.
Before Heath Ledger, everybody used to say that Jack Nicholson made the best Joker in the Batman series. And it’s true: Jack Nicholson makes a perfect, impeccable Joker. But Heath Ledger makes The Joker. I don’t know if the tragic period he was going through had anything to do with it. Or if Heath Ledger was always a brilliant actor hiding behind petty roles in ordinary movies. But his interpretation of The Joker is already legendary. It is so good that it actually puts Batman in the shadow. And let’s admit it: it’s so good that it may be the first time when at least part of us wanted the villain to defeat the hero.